‘Krampus’ is the ‘evil’ shadow opposite of Santa Claus, the bad cop to the good cop, who takes ‘care’ of the naughty. A goat-like ‘demon’ from pre-Christian European pagan folklore, such is the unlikely alliance. Then again, does Christian culture not already scare the masses with threats of banishment to eternal hell ruled by Satan? Of course, if Santa is not real, his shadow is not either.
While Santa nicely rewards the nice, Krampus naughtily punishes the naughty! With pointed tongue, hooves, fangs and much hair, he brings not gifts in a bag like Santa does. He brings a stick for disciplining unruly kids, who might be bagged and taken to hell! We can imagine how terrifying this is to past kids, and how adults might have readily used him to scare them into being good.
Krampus Day is the ‘nightmare’ before Christmas. On 5th December, there are night runs of usually men elaborately dressed as Krampus tearing through the streets menacingly. It is kind of an anonymous and gleeful drinking spree too, like a rowdier Halloween with many portrayals of one monster. Do Krampus Days’ popularity outside Europe hint of growth of the monstrous in men?
Western kids have, for a long time, believed in the existence of Santa, and way back, Krampus too. As if one ‘nice’ mythological dosage to cope with reality was not enough, a ‘naughty’ dose was added. It is an intriguing expression of the human desire to balance, to idealise and demonise, paradoxically, even idealising function of the demonic – for traumatising wayward kids annually!
The ‘Krampus’ movie is an attempt to remind all of the spirit of Christmas, doing so non-religiously. It starts with slow-motion footage of folks jostling and fighting in a mall for last-minute gift items, all forgetting how Christmas is supposed to be about sacrifice, by being giving. Yes, the popular version of Christmas is more of ‘Clausmas’ these days, about greed that drives over-consumerism.
Two related families gather for Christmas, reliving the horror of Krampus when everyone, even the adults were not too nice. With the basis of family being about unity and harmony forgotten, Krampus pays them a visit. After a string of ordeals, of one another trying their best to save one another, everyone is redeemed in time, while recalling the true meaning of family being support and sacrifice.
It is always fascinating to see how films reinvent ancient myths for new generations, adding layers upon their essence. It does not even matter if a monster is not real. What truly matters is what it stands for, and what lessons it offers. Myths endure because they offer enduring lessons, and humanity probably needs to relive these myths as many times as needed till all learn to be nice!
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